Excerpt: Venus Williams' 'Come to Win'

When I lose, the pain is so intense, and the emotions roll through me. Facing a loss where I know I could have done better is even harder. When I do think about the losses, I'm more inclined to side with Susan Mersereau, who says that "one of the things that helped me later on in my business career was not seeing failure or losing as a bad thing so much as something you can learn from. . . . Losing never felt good emotionally, but how we handled failure was almost more important than the failure itself." My loss to Martina Hingis in the semifinals at the 1999 U.S. Open later benefited me in the way Mersereau notes. In that match, I had a lot of opportunities. Hingis was very good, but I believed I was the better player. Yet I didn't win, which was upsetting. I thought, from now on I'm going to do whatever it takes to win. (Well, not whatever it takes—certainly not cheating.) So going forward, if a ball lands short and I can get to the ball and come to the net, I'm going to get there. I'm not going to sit back and hit the short ball and be scared on the baseline. If the court is open, I'm going to take my shot. I'm not going to miss it. From that loss, my mind-set changed. I played a few more tournaments that year and then had an injury. I was off four months in the beginning of the next year but was determined to win a major at that point. When I played Wimbledon that year, I was the most determined in the draw. That was my tournament and no one else's. I think that loss to Hingis helped me to make sure I did what it took to win my first Grand Slam tournament.

And, boy, do I love to win; everything is right in the world when I do. I go to tournaments with that goal in mind. From my perspective, you learn a lot from winning and putting yourself in a position to win. There have been times when I've woken up after Wimbledon thinking, "Ah-ha, I'm the Wimbledon champ." There's a complete feeling of satisfaction. Senator Bill Bradley, who won two championships with the New York Knicks, writes about the memories of reaching the mountaintop. I've been there, too. Once you're there, you take a deep breath and look down, with a deep feeling of satisfaction, though it doesn't last forever because there's always something new to conquer, another tournament to play. But it's amazing, and nothing in my interior design business, no matter how much I love design, compares to holding something like the Venus Rosewater Dish, awarded to the ladies' singles champion at Wimbledon. And yet, since so many of this book's contributors—people I look up to, from Robin Roberts, Phil Knight, and Irene Rosenfeld to Mersereau, Ken Chenault, and others—talk about the value of losing, I guess I'll have to give some more thought to the idea that losses can be beneficial; it certainly seems to be the case in business. Already, EleVen has had some distribution challenges in its young life, and while I could see these as setbacks, I'm going to try to internalize what Donny Deutsch says: "You don't grow from the wins. You grow from the defeats."

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